Thousands of Boston Public School Students Return to in-Person Learning

Boston Public Schools had required most students to learn remotely in the fall, as COVID-19 cases increased in the city

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Thousands of students in the Boston Public School district returned to classrooms, Thursday, as the city ramps up the number of children receiving in-person learning.

The wave of high-needs students who returned to school buildings Thursday is part of the city's phased plan to return to in-person learning. The phase was initially slated to begin Monday, but the launch was delayed due to the winter storm.

In all, some 7,700 students in the district are expected to start in-person learning this week and next.

This phase for in-person learning will be followed by the widespread return of students in phases starting with the youngest students returning March 1 and ending with high schoolers at the end of that month.

Boston Public Schools required most students to learn remotely in the fall, as COVID-19 cases increased in the city.

Each phase will be split into groups A and B. Group A will return to school on Mondays and Tuesdays and Group B will be in classrooms on Thursdays and Fridays. Students who have opted out of in-person learning will still be allowed to continue learning remotely.

The Boston Public Schools' website includes the list of high-needs students returning the week of Feb. 1:

  • Students with disabilities in substantially separate classrooms
  • Students with disabilities in inclusion classrooms with high needs
  • Students with disabilities in public day schools
  • English Learners who are EL levels 1 and 2
  • Students who are in the care of the Department of Children and Families
  • Students who are experiencing homelessness
  • Students with limited or interrupted formal education
  • Students identified by their school’s Student Support Team (SST) as requiring additional in-person schooling

The move is the result of an agreement between the school district and the Boston Teachers Union on stipulations for keeping schools safe amid the pandemic, as well as staffed, the organizations said. The agreement covers how many students and staff members can be in buildings at once, air purifying and ventilating systems, free COVID-19 testing for teachers and more.

"The best learning environment for our students is in their classrooms, with their peers, under the care of our educators and staff," Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said when the agreement was reached. "This agreement charts the course for the rest of the school year and establishes a safe return to in-person learning for additional students and staff."

Sharing the news with members in an email last month, union leadership called the agreement "a tremendous step forward."

"I think it's a step forward and we continue to collaborate and work with the district and BPHC and the city to ensure again the safest possible return to in person learning for as many students as possible," said Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang.

The union and school district had clashed in the fall over whether teachers should be required to come back to classrooms if they preferred to work remotely. They later agreed on adding more safety measures for open schools.

Late Sunday, Boston Public Schools, Mayor Marty Walsh's office, and the Boston Teachers Union said they all came to an agreement on additional provisions to keep teachers and students safe including more personal protective equipment, better ventilation and filtration, and additional COVID testing.
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